No matter how it’s viewed, the Anaheim Ducks have made a unique move. The team has announced that rookie phenom Trevor Zegras has been re-assigned to the AHL. But there’s a catch; Zegras’ demotion is not being viewed as a punishment by the organization, but rather a reward. The team is actually so impressed with the 20-year-old forward’s development that they are shifting him from the wing to his natural center position and simply want to start him in that role with the San Diego Gulls before bringing him back to the NHL squad. The club’s press release stated as follows:
Our goal was to help Trevor transition more smoothly into the NHL, so we started him out on the wing. He’s ahead of our scheduled progression, and as a result we are moving him to center ice effective immediately. He will need some experience in the AHL first, but our expectation is that he will be back with us in the near future and play center for the Ducks for years to come.
On it’s face alone, it is a stunning move to see Zegras demoted amid a strong first pro season. The 2019 ninth overall pick recorded nine points in eight games in the minors before he was swiftly promoted to the NHL and has added seven points in 17 games with Anaheim since (not to mention 18 points in seven games at the World Juniors before the season.) The cerebral forward looks like a potential first-line center for the Ducks moving forward, as the team acknowledged, so fans assuredly would have been shocked to see him demoted if not for the context. Especially in the midst of another poor season, some may have turned on the team for removing their most exciting young player from the lineup without reason.
Fortunately, the club did make clear their reasons for the move. It is very rare and very refreshing for an NHL team to be so transparent with their developmental path for a player. Whether or not this specific move is needed given Zegras’ ability is beside the point, as the team’s justification is at least logical. As they noted, Zegras may not need much time in San Diego to get comfortable down the middle either. The Boston University product has previously excelled at the position given his elite vision and passing ability. Zegras should be flying with the Ducks again soon.